Directed by Ryotaro Makihara/Produced by Jouji Wada/Written by Izumi Kizara/Music by Michiru Oshima
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
When her boyfriend Hal dies in a plane crash, Kurumi is broken, utterly devastated and unable to function. Desperate to bring her back, the people who love her design a robot to take her boyfriend’s place–one that looks exactly look Hal. This robot’s one mission is to draw Kurumi out of her grief, and he takes to the task in his own innocent, slightly baffled but sweet way. Initially, Kurumi rejects him utterly, not wanting a fake replacement for the person she loved. But gradually, robot-Hal’s efforts begin to show fruit as he delves into the complexities of the relationship Kurumi and Hal once had. He’s not truly prepared for all he finds though, for it seems the original Hal was not such a pristine individual as he seemed on the surface. Now he must try to repair not only Kurumi’s loneliness from losing her boyfriend but the complications his original left behind in other aspects of life as well–no easy task, even for a robot!
I wasn’t particularly expecting a lot from this random anime movie I happened to stumble upon, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found Hal to actually be quite good. Probably the most immediate impression is that the animation is stunningly beautiful–there was one point where the water animation literally made me gasp out loud (yes, I’m a sucker for good water animation; it’s super-hard to do and super-rare to find done well). What creeps in next is the world building: this is set in a futuristic Japan, probably somewhere in the southern islands, and the setting is a non-stereotypical and interesting blend of advanced technology and down-to-earth simplicity. The contrast is striking, especially when so many science fiction stories are set in worlds of glistening chrome–there’s so much green in this world! Then when you get into the story proper and see Hal and Kurumi’s growing relationship, you find (or at least I certainly did) that the characters also are interesting in a breaking-stereotypes sort of way. They’re complex and unexpected–a fact that is emphasized by details such as huge button collections scattered everywhere, wishing on Rubik’s cubes, and “pet giraffes” among other things. One thing I noticed not noticing in this movie was the music; unlike many Makoto Shinkai or Studio Ghibli movies where breathtaking music is a significant part of this story, the music in Hal gets out of the way and lets the story happen. It’s a quiet, gradual sort of story, so I feel this is quite fitting. Honestly, my one real complaint is that the story’s too short; an hour simply doesn’t allow for as much development as I would have like to see, and I feel the characters were strong enough to bear greater development. Still, what is provided is beautiful, sweet, and surprising (seriously, do NOT look at spoilers for this movie before you watch it). I would highly recommend Hal to anyone who enjoys a sweet romance story; just be prepared for more than you expect.